Saffron is one of the world’s most expensive spices and it enjoys a long and colorful (no pun intended) history. Many of us recognize it for its use in Spanish foods (think paella – & it’s called “azafran” there). It’s usually grown in an area along the Mediterranean. Saffron is actually the dried “stigma” from crocus plants, and there’s a reason it’s so expensive – it’s estimated that it takes anywhere from 50,000 to 75,000 crocus plants to harvest one pound of saffron.
Saffron has been used as a dye, a cosmetic and even as currency. It has been long highly regarded for its medicinal properties – it contains antioxidants which help protect the body and has even been used in Alzheimer’s research. For culinary purposes it provides a very distinctive flavor and not much is required.